The Wardrobe of Easter: Gentleness

Gentleness ought to be an obvious character quality of every person who bears the Savior’s name. Christian leaders are not exempt. Wielding power over others as they are called to do, leaders are susceptible to treating their followers harshly and inappropriately. But Christian leaders who are gentle know that leadership is best expressed by those who show they care about those they lead.


At the May 2012 memorial service at Washington D.C.’s National Cathedral for Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, the Rev. Timothy George related a story Colson loved to tell about himself. Staring directly into the face of a man who accosted him on a plane, pushing, shoving, jostling for a seat, Chuck said to him, “Fella, do you know who you’re messing with? I’m an ex-marine, an ex-con and if I weren’t a Christian you’d be on the floor of this plane!”

“Then,” added Rev. George, “Colson presented the Gospel to him.”

At the service Colson’s daughter, Emily, commented on the remarkable change that had happened to her father as a result of his conversion. She had known him during his years as President Nixon’s hatchet man. In those terrible days he acted as a tough, power-hungry ex-Marine who was willing to run over anyone, including his own family members, to claw his way to the top. He lived up to his own words: “I’d run over my own grandmother to serve the President.”

Needing Max

But that harsh demeanor changed, said Emily, when her father surrendered his life to Jesus and gave his entire energy to serve his Savior. More and more Colson turned into a gentle, warm man who cared for others. He acted gently and tenderly toward his family, and especially toward Max, Emily’s autistic 20-year son. Whenever he was with Max, grandpa Chuck gave him his full attention and care. Emily added: “Max needed my Dad, and my Dad needed Max.”

To be sure, there was still a driven passion and intensity to Colson. The worshippers at the service chuckled heartily at Rev. George’s obvious understatement: “He did not suffer fools gladly and he was not blessed with an overabundance of patience.” But there was a heavy dose of gentleness in Colson’s converted heart, too, and a desire to act caringly and with soft touch toward the weak and vulnerable, the despised and the forgotten.

The virtue of gentleness

During the seasons of Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time, we are considering each week one of the character qualities which, taken together, form the wardrobe of Easter. St. Paul encourages followers of Jesus to wear each character quality daily as evidence that they are raised with Jesus Christ. (Cf. Colossians 3.1) This week we focus on the virtue of gentleness.

Christian gentleness is softness with backbone to it—strength with a delicate, tender touch. The Greek word prautes can be translated both as meekness and gentleness. It’s the word Jesus used in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the meek—the gentle—for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5.5) Meekness and gentleness are related to each other as attitude to action. The attitude of meekness (praus), nurtured in quiet, non-quarrelsome, long-suffering spirit, in turn produces actions which are gentle (prautes). (“Gentleness” in Colossians 3.12 is actually in the plural—prauteta, “gentlenesses”—suggesting that a resurrected-with-Christ person day after day ought always to keep producing multitudes of gentle acts, each shaped as a concrete and appropriate response to a specific situation.)

Christian leaders not exempt

Gentleness ought to be an obvious character quality of every person who bears the Savior’s name. Christian leaders are not exempt. Wielding power over others as they are called to do, leaders are susceptible to treating their followers harshly and inappropriately. But Christian leaders who are gentle know that leadership is best expressed by those who show they care about those they lead. Gentle leaders relate as mothers toward their followers.  

St. Paul is a fine example of a leader marked by gentleness. No matter his lofty status as an apostle, he deliberately chose to act gently toward his Thessalonian friends—“like a nursing mother caring for her little children,” he says, “…because you had become so dear to us.” (I Thess. 2.7-8)

Jesus was an even finer example. His ministry of proclaiming and displaying the Kingdom of God brought him into close encounter both with approving friends and with vehement enemies. He has Divine authority over all of them. But toward all he related as a mild-hearted suffering servant of God who, while oppressed and afflicted, did not open his mouth in anger, frustration, resentment or reproof (Isaiah 53.7).

A counter-cultural Christian witness

Gentleness is a counter-cultural Christian witness against the rudeness and roughness which so strongly marks current society’s behavior. Thus, when Jesus bids a man or woman to follow him, he bids him or her, as he was, always to be gentle.

Quote

“I choose gentleness. Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.” ~ Max Lucado

Hymn: Have Thine Own Way, Lord

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
while I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today.
Open mine eyes, my sin show me now,
as in thy presence humbly I bow.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray.
Power, all power, surely is thine.
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Hold o'er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

Words: Adelaid A. Pollard, 1901, P.D.

The Wardrobe of Easter Series

This series was written to be read in the following order:

 

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